Use Points and Miles to Book an Awesome Summer Vacation
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Summer is right around the corner, and that means it’s time to start booking those insta-worthy getaways we’ve all been daydreaming about. Whether your ideal summer vacation consists of touring famous cultural attractions or tanning on a white-sand beach, there are a ton of great ways you could use your points and miles to get you there. Here’s a look at some of our favorite redemption-friendly destinations you could visit this summer.
If you’re into fancy fashions, delicious cuisine and stunning architecture, look no further than Milan. Once you’ve fully raided the shops of Via Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga, and have taken enough selfies in front of the towering Duomo (without using a selfie-stick, of course), be sure to head to the Navigli district to explore Milan’s beautiful canals — yes, Venice is not the only Italian city with canals.
Milan offers three airports that you could fly into — Malpensa (MXP), Linate, (LIN) and Bergamo’s Orio al Serio (BGY). Malpensa is the only one to offer nonstop flights to the US, but if your routing requires a stop in a European gateway like London Heathrow (LHR) anyway, you’d be better off flying into Linate, as it’s much closer to the city center. Orio al Serio is farther away and is primarily used by Europe’s low-cost carriers like Ryanair.
Luckily, finding award availability to get to Milan is fairly easy. All three major US carriers (American, Delta and United) offer economy awards bookable throughout the summer from 30,000 miles one-way. While the prices for economy awards are fairly consistent among the three programs, they vary quite a bit when it comes to business awards — American offers business awards starting at 57,500 miles one-way, United from 60,000 and Delta from 70,000.
Alternatively, you can fly to Malpensa from JFK on Emirates’ A380. One-way economy awards start at 38,750 Emirates Skywards miles, business at 62,500 and first at 85,000. Short on Emirates Skywards miles? You can instantly transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to Emirates Skywards at a 1:1 ratio.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of points hotels you could stay at throughout the city. If it’s luxury you’re after, then you’d be best off at the TPG-approved Park Hyatt Milan. It’s a Category 7 hotel, with redemptions starting at 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night. Given the fact that cash rates start at 590 euros (~$730) per night in the summer, this would make for an excellent use of your points.
A less expensive, yet still centrally located and comfortable, option would be the Westin Palace Milan. Rooms are tastefully outfitted in Renaissance-style decor and can be booked for 12,000 Starpoints per night.
Hilton folks can stay at the Hilton Milan for 80,000 Hilton points per night, but with cash rates available starting at 139 euros (~$170), the redemption probably wouldn’t be very rewarding.
Tel Aviv, Israel
From UNESCO-recognized cultural attractions to gorgeous beaches, phenomenal cuisine and a vibrant nightlife scene, Tel Aviv offers something for every type of traveler. Plus, other Israeli cities like Jerusalem and Haifa are pretty easy to get to by car from Tel Aviv. If you do end up visiting over the summer, be sure not to miss the Israeli Opera Summer Festivals.
Given that flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV) consistently hover around $1,000 round-trip (on full-service carriers) and we don’t see too many deal alerts that’ll get you there, award redemptions could score you great savings.
American has economy, business and first-class award availability starting at 40,000, 70,000 and 115,000 miles each way, respectively. However, it doesn’t offer any nonstop flights between the US and Israel, so you’ll need to connect if you want to use AAdvantage miles.
United operates two flights a day between its Newark hub and Tel Aviv (one of which is operated by its Boeing 777-300ER with the “true” Polaris product), and one daily flight from SFO to TLV on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Economy awards start at 42,500 miles one-way and business at 75,000, or 85,000 for partner flights.
With summer economy-class redemptions starting at 50,000 miles one-way and business at 130,000, booking your flight through Delta would require you to shell out the most miles among the big three US carriers. However, you can book the same economy-class and business-class awards for 25,000 and 62,500 miles, respectively, through the Air France/KLM Flying Blue program (a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and the Starwood Preferred Guest Program).
Another option would be to fly El Al, the flag carrier of Israel. It operates the most nonstop flights from North America to Israel and offers a competitive business-class product on its new Dreamliners. However, the only way you can redeem miles for El Al flights is through its Matmid program and it isn’t known for being all that rewarding. Amex Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Matmid at a sub-par transfer rate of 1,000 Membership Rewards to 20 Matmid points. Redemptions start at 875 Matmid points (43,750 Membership Rewards points) one-way for economy, 1,425 (71,250 Membership Rewards points) for premium economy and a whopping 2,500 (125,000 Membership Rewards points) for business.
Where to Stay
While the selection of points hotels — more specifically, luxury points hotels — in Tel Aviv is lacking, it’s definitely on the rise and you shouldn’t have trouble finding somewhere to stay. The most luxurious option — well, at least until the much awaited and chronically delayed W Tel Aviv-Jaffa opens this summer (hopefully) — is the InterContinental David Tel Aviv. Award nights are available all summer long for 50,000 IHG points.
Those looking to be in the heart of the action can stay at the Renaissance Tel Aviv for 35,000 Marriott points per night, Sheraton Tel Aviv for 20,000 SPG points or Hilton Tel Aviv for 70,000 Hilton points. The hotels themselves are fairly unexciting, but their locations are unbeatable.
If you’d rather stay at a more modern hotel and have a quieter beach experience, consider staying at the Ritz-Carlton or newly opened Publica Isrotel in Herzliya (a roughly 20-minute drive from Tel Aviv) for 50,000 or 35,000 Marriott points per night, respectively.
Picturesque beaches, vibrant culture and a ton of amazing redemption options — need we say more? Although it’s quite a trek from the US, the Island of the Gods (aka Bali) definitely deserves to be on everyone’s travel radar.
To reach this Indonesian paradise, you’ll need to fly into Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) via either an Asian or Middle Eastern gateway. If you’ve been racking up Alaska miles (or have a handsome stash of SPG points that you don’t mind transferring to Alaska), your best bet would be to redeem them for either economy, business or first on Cathay Pacific priced at just 30,000, 50,000 and 70,000 miles one-way, respectively. If you purchased those miles with a 40% bonus as a part of Alaska’s latest promotion, you’re essentially paying just $1,153 each for way for business and $1,478 each way for first.
The next best option would be to use American AAdvantage miles for 37,500, 70,000 or 110,000, respectively. You could also use Delta and United miles to get you there, but with economy awards starting at 40,000 miles one-way, and business awards starting at 90,000 miles with United and 160,000 miles with Delta, you wouldn’t be scoring as good of savings as with the other options.
Where to Stay
Bali has no shortage of chic rooms available to book using points. There are several Starwood properties, like the St. Regis Bali and W Bali Seminyak, both available starting 30,000 Starpoints per night. Other top picks include the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton Bali for 40,000 Marriott points per night and the InterContinental Bali, which requires 40,000 IHG Rewards points per night.
However, given how cheap cash rates are for hotels in Bali, these redemptions don’t always make for the best use of your points. In some cases, you’ll be better off redeeming your points at a fixed-value through a travel portal. Plus, this would allow you to consider some especially unique (and insta-worthy) properties like the Hanging Gardens in Bali — the World’s First 7-star Boutique Hotel.
Yes, you read that right: Iceland. Although you won’t be catching the northern lights, visiting in the summer is great because you’ll be able to participate in fun outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking at some of the most scenic spots in the world. Plus, you’ll get to experience long summer days with nearly 24 hours of daylight. As a result, Reykjavik truly becomes the city that never sleeps with great nightlife through early hours of the morning.
While it’s not uncommon to find airfare to Reykjavik (KEF) as low as $69 one-way with low-cost carrier WOW Air, not everyone’s about that flying youth hostel life. Fortunately, there are plenty of full-service carriers that’ll get you there in comfort (at least when compared to WOW Air). You could use your airline miles to get you there, but due to pressure from WOW Air, even the full-service carriers offer relatively low fares year-round so your best bet would probably be redeeming your credit card points at a fixed-value through a travel portal.
Where to Stay
Don’t let the cheap airfare fool you; Iceland is an expensive destination and lodging is no exception to this. Luckily, there are plenty of redemption-friendly hotels which you could stay at for free using your points.
Club Carlson has several hotels in and around Reykjavik with rooms at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel costing 44,000 Gold points per night and rooms at the Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel costing 70,000. Unfortunately though, Club Carlson isn’t a partner of any transferrable point programs and the only way to earn points is through stays or one of its co-branded cards like the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card.
With two hotels right in the heart of Reykjavik, and another just a five-minute walk away, Hilton provides the most (and nicest) options for staying in the city using points. Award nights at its newest hotel in the city, the Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton, start at 60,000 points per night, but are mostly hovering around 95,000 in the summer. A slightly less expensive alternative would be the Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre, where rooms cost 70,000 points per night in the summer. With award nights ranging from 36,000-60,000 points per night, the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica is the least expensive option.
Starwood only offers one hotel in the city: the 101 Hotel, Reykjavik. It was one of Iceland’s first boutique hotels and became an instant landmark almost as soon as it opened in 2003. Award nights at this 38-room hotel range between 20,000-25,000 points.
Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, is often overlooked by visitors to the region when in fact it’s worth a trip of its own. The city is now safer than ever before and has a ton to offer to people interested in delicious cuisine, rich culture, history, sports and art. If you’re planning on visiting in early August, you’ll have the opportunity to experience Colombian culture through the Bogota Carnival.
There are many nonstop flights to take you to and from Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport (BOG) from major cities across the US. All three major US carriers offer economy awards from 20,000 miles one-way. While American and United offer business-class awards starting at 30,000 and 35,000 miles, respectively, Delta charges upwards of 86,000 miles.
Where to Stay
The W Bogotá is easily the most stylish points hotel in the city, and as a Category 4 Starwood property, it costs just 10,000 points per night — just about on par with TPG’s valuations. However, being located in the Usaquén/Santa Barbara section of the city, it’s quite far from La Candelaria, the historic city center.
Luckily, there are several other upscale points hotels which are located a bit closer to the center. Among them are Marriott’s Artisan D.C. Hotel, Autograph Collection and the JW Marriott Hotel Bogota. Whiles rooms at the former cost 20,000 points per night, you’d score greater savings by staying at the JW since it’s participating in PointSavers and offering rooms for 25,000 points per night, as opposed to 30,000.
For a more mid-level option, you could stay at the Hilton Bogota where award nights range between 20,000 and 30,000 points per night.
Thanks to points and miles, your ideal summer vacation might not be as far-fetched as it seems. If you’re short on points and miles with any of the airline or hotel programs mentioned in this post, there are plenty of cards which allow you to transfer points to travel partners. Just be sure to review all of your booking options before transferring the points because in some cases you may be better off using fixed-value points — as we’ve seen with hotels in Bali and flights to Iceland.
Featured photo of Nusa Penida Island, Bali by miniloc / Getty Images.
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